A Horse of a Different Color

I have this delicious little fantasy—one in which I get to relive the year 1975, that interminable chunk of time during which everything revolved around the horribleness of wearing braces (or so it seemed). More specifically, I’d like to revisit life as a seventh grader, but as one who is fortunate enough to be fitted with today’s orthodontic wonders (i.e. the multi-colored bits of wonderfulness that kids ACTUALLY ENJOY WEARING—or so I’ve been informed by a certain giddified nine-year-old).

“Mom, my braces are SO COOL! Look-at-em! Look-at-em! Look-at-em! They’re PINK and GREEN and ORANGE and BLUE! Like little pieces of candy!”

Who wouldn’t be thrilled to have a Skittles-inspired smile, a rainbow-esque set of teeth, a made-to-order mouth full of cheer—as opposed to the lifeless hunks of steely gray with which I was damned? How perfectly dull and exceedingly ordinary they were. That said, I am a resentful creature—one who laments having missed out on the joys of modern day orthodonture and who waves the woe-is-me flag now and again just to remind everyone how completely unfair life is.

And let us not forget how decidedly intolerable the wretched things were way back when. That irksome hodgepodge of puny rubber bands that no one on earth should be expected to handle…those hideous-looking metal bands twisted unmercifully around each tiny tooth…and those sharpish wires—the ones that reveled in our misery, poking and jabbing our fleshy cheeks at will, causing undue pain and suffering as we (band geeks and athletes alike) caked on gobs of wax in the name of protecting our dear lips from trumpets and whatnot. Indeed, the braces of yesteryear were instruments of pure evil, likely designed by a sadist with some sort of oral fixation.

But aside from the gamut of physical adversities, I remember well the torrent of humiliation suffered, too. Getting braces in the junior high was a truly mortifying experience. It meant transforming instantaneously into a target for ridicule. “Brace Face!” “Metal Mouth!” “Tinsel Teeth!” and whatever else the non-wearers decided we ought to be called echoed throughout the crowed hallways as we snaked our way from classroom to classroom. It meant shamefully displaying that walnut-sized slab of repulsiveness (read: a pink retainer) on our cafeteria tray each day and living in fear that we might inadvertently dispose of it in the trash. It meant hiding our faces behind notebooks and jamming our heads inside lockers in a perfectly futile attempt to conceal the horrible truth—the wearing of braces. We murmured this and mumbled that, cupping a hand to our mouths almost without thinking. As if shame had become second nature. Heaven forbid we smile.

Nowadays the grand event is cause for celebration. Calendars are marked with sparkly stickers and giant “Hoorays!” in anticipation of the special day. Text messages are sent to one and all upon leaving the orthodontist’s office—
sharing the happy news the very instant those prized specks of joy are cemented to one’s pearly whites. Great masses gather ’round to catch a glimpse and to ooh and aah in amazement, the medley of specific hues that were chosen (after much deliberation) is applauded with great enthusiasm and the wearers of braces are warmly embraced by both populations: the non-wearers as well as the welcoming committee of the Bedazzled Teeth Club.

As it should be.

Ah, to have been festooned with said multi-colored bits of wonderfulness in 1975. I can’t fathom anything more grand or glorious.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (mired in self-pity, imagining the Skittles-inspired smile that might have been).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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